Campos President of USL championship team San Diego Royal. He lives at Scripps Ranch.
“O Rei” Pelé was retired when I was born, but his legacy on and off the field has influenced who I am today, dedicating my career to helping develop beautiful games in the United States. It was a trigger.
Pele spent most of his career at Santos FC in Brazil. Santos FC is a team that plays in the coastal city of Santos, a few hours away from my birthplace of São Paulo. Growing up, I spent my summers minutes away from stadiums and watched him transform football into a global sport. , began his journey as the world’s greatest football ambassador until his death on December 29 at the age of 82. Pele had an ambidextrous ability and creativity that no one had ever seen before, he had developed a left foot that rivaled his right. For decades, players around the world have watched black-and-white videos of him dating back to the 1950s, trying to make his tricks their own. He is the only player in history to have won the World Cup three times and he has done it humbly.
Pele played for only one other team. In 1975, he signed with the New York Cosmos. He believed in football’s potential in the United States. He wanted to see it grow and prosper, in fact he continued to commute to the United States to promote football for decades after his 1977 retirement.
It was an honor to work with Pele for a week in New York in 2007. At the time, I was working with Major League Soccer to help organize soccer tours for teams like Barcelona and the Brazilian soccer team. Pele was in New York that week, ringing the bell at the Nasdaq among other things, promoting football, driving global literacy programs through football, and receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award. Thirty years later, he was still an international superstar.
Like him, I want to develop the sport in America. His death is a reminder that through the sport we love, we can compete for wins, losses and draws. Clubs should strive to develop their communities while bringing people of all backgrounds together. That’s what we’re trying to do with the San Diego Royal Soccer Club.
A magical moment with Pele came during the final hour back to our hotel in New York. I felt more comfortable in his presence, talking about football in America and how it continues to grow. He spoke of the need to develop young athletes with a holistic approach that includes the mental development of the athletes. We talked about pressure.
He stressed the importance of living in the moment. He talked about his injuries, the racism he faced in his life, and how important it is to value what you do because you never know how long you can do what you do. Pele was also a man of integrity. Due to his stance on corruption in the Brazilian Football Federation, he was left out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup hosting ceremonies hosted by Brazil.
We finally arrived at his hotel and it was time to say goodbye. All week long I was going to ask him for his autograph. After all, he was Pele. But the moment was never right.
When I was dropping him off for the last time, he turned and said, there is nothing? Do you want a photo or signature? ‘ I smiled and said it was an honor. I signed him and gave him a Brazilian national team jersey dedicated to me. Sadly, the credit card it came with had expired and I missed the notification, so I kept it in an auctioned storage unit.
All I have now are photos of the jersey and memories of the countless moments that made Pele so special to so many. I’ll do anything for you!